Thursday, 30 May 2013

Paula Rego

Paula Rego is an artist who loves a story and the best way for her to tell it is through her art.

She was born in Portugal in 1935 to well off, educated parents.  Much of her childhood was spent with her Portuguese grandmother and great aunt who loved to entertain her with Portuguese folktales. These old stories fostered her lifelong interest in painting “the narrative”.

Paula studied art in London at “the Slade”  from 1952-1956 and she has lived most of her adult life in England.  Although she has lived in London for fifty years, her work remains Portuguese in it's inspiration even when she explores English subjects such as Hogarth's Marriage A la Mode or Jane Eyre.

Paula Rego’s paintings and etchings tell a story, it may be autobiographical, or based on a fairy tale, literature, a historical or current event .  All the paintings and prints I have seen have human figures (often woman or girls) or animals or both.
Rego is interested in the everyday but not conventional every day.  She enjoys the unconventional, the stuff that is swept under the carpet, the things we aren’t proud of but happen none the less.


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Vivid Sydney Festival

Vivid-Customs House-in the rain

Vivid-Customs House

Vivid-Opera House
I love to be at Circular Quay in Sydney at any time but night is particularly wonderful.  For those who do not know Sydney, the Quay is the big jewel  in the crown that is Sydney Harbour.  It is the hub with ferries gliding in and out, the Opera House on one side, the Harbour Bridge on the other with some interesting buildings in between.  There is more of a reason, right now, to head to the Quay (and surrounds) as Vivid Festival is on.  We walked from Darling Harbour which has a Los Vegas style light show on fountains, around to the Quay where I loved the lights on Customs House, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the bridge and of course the Opera House. The music added a great deal to the visuals.  The smaller light installations in the Rocks and around at Walsh Bay were so interesting and well worth a look. 

Vivid -Opera House

Vivid-Customs House in the rain

Vivid-Museum of Contemporary Art

These great photos were taken by Greg McCall and much appreciated by me.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

William Kentridge


I find the work of William Kentridge inspirational to my art practice.  Drawing is his core business and I like that. 

William Kentridge is a South African artist.  He was born and continues to live and work in Johannesburg, living within a 5 km radius his entire life.   He was born in 1955 to a family of lawyers and civil right activists and this helped to shape the man.

It is difficult to discuss William Kentridge in a few paragraphs as he cannot be summarized so easily. His drawings are the basis to his films, theatre, etchings, linocuts, tapestries, sculptures and more. 
 His films were begun as a way for him to avoid overworking a drawing.  He begins a drawing and then takes a picture, returns to the drawing, changing it marginally, then takes  another photo.  Back and forth he goes, erasing and adding charcoal and taking successive photos.  The result is a form of animation. The paper at the end  is a battered rubbed grey drawing but it is the process and the resulting film which is of interest.

The films tell stories based on figures from his dreams, political issues, South Africa, family, literature or mythology.   The film’s music is South African.  Last year we attended Kentridge’s exhibition entitled  Five Themes at The Museum for the Moving Images in Melbourne. It was fantastic, rooms with multiple films and sound in one space, puppet theatres with multiple images and effects as well as sculptures. There is a Kentridge film playing at the Art Gallery of NSW as well as many major galleries around the world.

William Kentridge exhibits with the Annandale Galleries in Sydney. Last year I was able to buy a little Kentridge linocut, one of his iconic images, a self portrait.
 If you aren't familiar with the work if this artist please do some research yourself and keep an eye out if you are lucky enough to be in a major museum or international exhibition anywhere in the world.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Chelsea Flower Show

Chrysanthemums in Gouache  on map of London by me
The green chrysanthemums from last week are still looking good this weekend so thought I would use some colour in another drawing.  I liked the graphic red in the map in contrast with the graphic green in the flowers.  Since it is a map of the city of London and I was drawing flowers it reminded me of the Chelsea Flower show which is coming up in a day or two.

Chelsea Flower show has been a highlight of every garden lover's calendar for the past 100 years.  It is held in the grounds of Chelsea Hospital in London and is the flower show most associated with the Royal family who always attend the opening.  They limit the number of visitors and 157 thousand see it every year.  It runs from May 21 to 25.  I have never been but think it would be great to see.

Chelsea rules forbid the use of coloured sculptures so garden gnomes have been forbidden throughout it's history. One frequent exhibitor Jekka McVicar used to smuggle a gnome into her exhibits.  Sorry no pictures of that but I love the reclining nude to the right.  That grass is effective for the hair.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Louise Bourgeois


 Spider Woman...that’s what Louise Bourgeois is known as.  She is famous for the huge spider sculptures she has made and exhibits in the major galleries of the world.  
Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 and died in 2010 at age 98.  Her childhood experiences forever influenced her life and work.  She was born in France and her family had a business repairing Aubusson rugs. Louise adored her mother but was very unhappy and disappointed by her father.  He was a philanderer and brought a woman into the house who he was having an affair with, to work as Louise’s governess.  She lived there for 10 years and her mother refused to acknowledge what was going on.  Her father would leave the home for weeks at a time, not letting them know he was leaving, to collect the rugs that they would then repair and sell to wealthy Parisians.

Louise first studied mathematics and philosophy at the Sorbonne.  Her mother died when Louise was a young woman and after this she began studying art,  She opened a gallery next to the family rug workshop and the art historian Robert Goldwater came in wanting to buy a Picasso print.  They eventually married and moved to the US.  Louise started with painting and printmaking but moved to sculpture in the 1940s.

All of Louise Bourgeois’ work is autobiographical addressing  betrayal, anxiety and lonliness. She especially focuses on relationships which were often portrayed with erotic imagery.

The spider sculptures are about her mother.  Louise said that spiders are clever, helpful and protective like my mother. Like a spider, her mother was a weaver ( she was in charge of the tapestry restoration workshop). 
Here is a short video of Louise Bourgeois talking about one of her spider sculptures.

You can also read an article here where Louise Bourgeois reflects about her life, past and present-

Google search images to see more of this fascinating artist's sculptures.  She has done much more than I am showing you here.

sculpture made out of the artist's own clothing

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Fan Palm

Fan Palm, pen and ink on "Metabolism of  Amino acids"  text

                                                                                  I have a small garden and when I looked at my slightly motley collection of plants I realize they all have interesting sculptural shapes.  I plan on doing some drawings of the plants and this is the first one, a Fan Palm.  I like the fronds which look like someone have given each one a trim, bluntly cut across the base.  I have drawn it on some sheets from a text book which was given to me for this purpose.  This one is about Metabolism of Amino acids which is the sort of stuff Claire and her boyfriend, Jesse, are studying at university.

My backyard

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Green Chrysanthemums
Happy Mother's Day to my mom who is the best mom in the world.  To all you other moms as well as you others who have a mother.... have a great day.  Chrysanthemums are a traditional bouquet to present your mother with on this day.  Is it because they are blooming at this time or is it because mum is in the name ?  Chrysanthemums come from a hot house in Canada and it is strange to see them in people's gardens here in Australia. But they are there,often tied up  with twine to keep them upright.  It's great to see such an old fashioned plant.  These green mums came from Marrickville market this morning and I have had a lovely few hours drawing them in ink.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Okay...another chair, Bergere

This chair got missed in my week of chairs.  This chair is called a Bergere with an accent on the second e.  My parents had one of these chairs (still do) and I always liked them.  They are reasonably big but visually small and are very comfortable.  From the name you probably gathered they are a French chair and became popular in the 17th century. They have an exposed wooden frame and an upholstered back and seat.  The frames were most often made of walnut or beech wood and the upholstery, silk.  This chair is one I purchased years ago and it was upholstered  in a fabric of my choice.  It doesn't really fit the d├ęcor of my current abode but I would find it hard to get rid of.  It lives in the bedroom where it is useful for shoe application.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Art Collectors- Dorothy and Herbert Vogel

Dorothy and Herbert Vogel

Often an art collector is a wealthy person whose large disposable income allows them to collect contemporary art.

Herbert and Dorothy Vogel are a fascinating art collecting couple who are not wealthy nor is their lifestyle any more than extremely modest. Herbert worked for the post office in New York and Dorothy was a librarian.  They live in a 1 bedroom apartment with  their turtles and 5 cats and throughout their 40 plus years of marriage devoted half their annual income to art.

Herbert was very interested in art as a young man.  When he and Dorothy married they spent their honeymoon visiting galleries.  Dorothy then became very interested and they both took classes.  They realized they would never be great artists but still wanted to be involved in the artist community.  They didn’t have the money to collect fashionable art in the 1960s, instead they got to know the artists, went to their exhibitions, visited their studios and collected work that was perhaps, too challenging for the regular collectors.  This art was conceptual and often minimalist.  They bought this for little money and at times traded services, for example looking after an artist's cat in exchange for a piece.

Dorothy and Herb Vogel in their apartment

You would hope that art collectors would enjoy their art by displaying it in their home.  But no.. the Vogel’s art collection was under sheets so the light would not damage it, it was also under the bed or in the closets.  There was so much stuff that the couple had only 15 square feet of living space, enough for a small kitchen table, 3 chairs, 5 cats and an aquarium for the turtles.  They knew what they had, enjoyed thinking about it and declared they did not have to see their art to enjoy it.

In 1992 they decided to donate 2000 conceptual art works to the National Gallery of Art and immediately started collecting again.  It took 4 truck loads  to  transport the Vogel art collection to the gallery, all out of their small apartment.

The Vogel’s are retired now and Herbert is rather frail but they continue to attend gallery openings and maintain friendships with artists from the early days  as well as newcomers.  They also continue to collect art as it is their passion.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Ai Wei Wei

Ai Wei Wei standing in front of his room full of sunflower seeds, Tate Gallery, London in 2010

At the White Rabbit Gallery earlier this year we saw an exhibit by Ai Wei Wei consisting of a large pile of what looked like sunflower seeds.  They were actually individually sculpted seeds made out of porcelain.  I didn’t realize at the time but in 2010 at the Tate Gallery in London there was an installation by Ai Wei Wei of a ROOM full of “sunflower seeds”-over a hundred million of them.  They too, were individually sculpted and painted porcelain “seeds” .   The material of porcelain relates to Chinese tradition of porcelain manufacture.  The sunflower seeds have an association in Chinese history as Chairman Mao was portrayed as the sun in propaganda posters and the Chinese people as sunflowers facing the sun.  The artist also remembers sharing sunflower seeds with his friends when they experienced extreme poverty during the cultural  revolution.  The huge number of seeds make us think about what it means to be an individual in our society and also what we can do as a group.

Ai Wei Wei was born in Beijing in 1957.  His father, Ai Qing, was a great poet and friend of Chairman Mao.  He fell out of favour in 1958 and was exiled to a labour camp on the edge of the Gobi Desert.  The family suffered great hardship, living in a hole in the ground and his father forced to work,  cleaning public toilets, for years.  In 1975 the family was able to return to Beijing and a few years later Ai Wei Wei studied at the Beijing Film Academy.

Ai Wei Wei is a political activist who creates art to make the public aware of particular issues.  He has been critical of the Chinese Government stance on democracy and human rights.  This has lead to police beatings and his arrest and being held for over 2 months without any formal charges.  Have a look at this article about Ai Wei Wei written  in the Daily Mail in Britain.